Is #Podiumgate's Hannah Salem Stone headed to the White House again in 2024 with Sarah Sanders?
Stone is a powerful link between Arkansas Governor Sarah Sanders and Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin.
Hannah Hennigan Salem Stone has traveled around the world, but now finds herself in the middle of a full-blown Arkansas scandal called Podiumgate.
Stone, along with her business partner and friend – Virginia Beckett – are connected to the purchase of a $19,025 lectern with a state credit card.
Beckett’s business, Beckett Events, invoiced the state for the lectern (also called a podium in this scandal). But Stone and Beckett’s business dealings are closely, and curiously, intertwined.
Podiumgate isn't the first time Stone, a Ruston, La., native whose maiden name is Hennigan, has been in the middle of a political drama. She was also involved in Donald Trump's Jan. 6 rally in Washington D.C.
According to numerous news sites, Stone was subpoenaed to give a deposition but its unclear if she did. If a deposition occurred, it isn't in the official Jan. 6 final report that South Arkansas Reckoning could find.
However, Salem Stone is mentioned in several depositions including Judd Deere's, a deputy chief of staff for Sanders. Deere has long been involved in Arkansas Republican politics. Deere said this about Stone, then known as Hannah Salem, in his deposition.
The Around-The-World Stone Adventures
Stone has come a long-way from Ruston, the college town where her roots run deep but perhaps not surprising considering political world lured Stone at a young age.
In a Politico feature in 2019 that celebrated Stone as "Birthday of the Day,” she said: “At 17 years old, I was recruited as ‘letter folder #2’ in a commercial for Louisiana congressional candidate Lee Fletcher. We lost in a razor-thin runoff, but I was hooked and decided to pursue a career in PR and politics.”
Fletcher was a major player in Louisiana's Republican Party. He died in 2008 from a rare form of sarcoma.
Stone's LinkedIn tells more about her resume:
And Salem Strategies:
The name Salem comes from a possible marriage here:
Salem worked in the Trump Administration as a special assistant to the President and director of White House Press Advance.
In the 2018 Politico article, Stone was asked: "How’s the Trump presidency going?
“In just three years, the Trump presidency has put America back on the path to prosperity and greatness,” she said.
According to various posts, Stone led the glam life expected of a White House advance staffer. Advance staff help a president creates optics and images. They make sure everything looks picture perfect for media — all of the time. They usually stay in the shadows to create their magic.
Along with Sanders, who was Trump’s press secretary and other Trump staff, Stone, indeed, traveled the world.
Stone's LinkedIn account offers more 411 on her travels:
Stone generously gave White House cufflinks to friends.
In early 2020, Stone left the White House. Salem Strategies was officially incorporated in February, and the company worked on Trump's re-election campaign and his Jan. 6 rally.
After President Joe Biden took office on Jan. 20, 2021, Stone focused on her personal life in the spring, marrying in a private ceremony at the Lincoln Memorial in late April. She married Adam Stone, an Arlington police officer. Adam Stone, who is now retired, escorted six presidents during his tenure on the force.
They also asked for money for a Paris honeymoon on the website, The Knot. It's unclear if they ever made it to Paris on a honeymoon in 2021 looking at Stone’s social media.
In June 2021, the couple fooled their friends when they invited them to an engagement party only to announce that they were already married.
Sanders’ communications director Alexa Henning attended the party. (Henning is wearing the orange pants.)
Hello, Glenn Youngkin!
In January 2022, Stone and Beckett produced Virginia Governor's Glenn Youngkin's inauguration.
On May 12, Stone attended a celebration for Coach Joe Gibbs at the 33rd Annual Burgundy and Gold Banquet at the Ritz Carlton Tysons Corner.
Three days later, Stone celebrated the 90th birthday of former North Carolina Republican State Sen. Ronald J. Rabin. According to her LinkedIn, Stone served as his chief aide.
Stone attended an event at the Dallas Cowboy stadium with friends in July.
In late August, Stone and Beckett rekindled their ties to Trumpworld with a photo taken of the two of them at Trump National Golf Club Bedminster.
By the end of 2022 Stone, it appears, had only two candidates on her radar — Youngkin and Sanders.
Stone and Beckett engaged in a six-day work tour in September, but its purpose or location is unclear.
In early November, the pair landed in Little Rock for Sanders’ Election Night festivities.
The holiday season took Stone and Beckett to the historic Virginia Executive Mansion for Youngkin's Christmas party.
In January Stone and Beckett returned to Arkansas for Sanders’ inauguration.
Stone and Beckett returned to Little Rock in February for Sanders’ response to Biden's State of the Union address.
Jump to June
Sanders' office was invoiced by Beckett Events for a nearly $20,000 podium in June.
Blue Hog Report publisher Matt Campbell discovered the invoice during a Freedom of Information request. (That request would throw the state’s FOIA and the Sanders Administration into chaos. In September when Sanders ordered a special called legislative session to attempt to gut FOIA citing her family's security as a need for tighter FOIA laws.)
In mid-June Sanders flew to France on an economic mission focused on the aviation industry. Sanders and Youngkin, along with many other governors, attended the Paris Air Show, a trade fair and air show held in odd years at Paris–Le Bourget Airport.
Of course, Stone and Beckett were in France, too. Who paid for their travel? The taxpayers of Arkansas, Virginia or both?
In July, Youngkin traveled to the Texas border to say thanks to the Virginia National Guard who are assisting 12 other states with the immigration crisis at the border.
Stone posted pictures of this trip with Youngkin on her Facebook page, but some are now deleted or hidden from public view. South Arkansas Reckoning captured a screen shot of Youngkin with Stone.
Smoke Turns To Fire
Stone, whose social media is more public than Beckett's, has seemingly locked down most of her posts since Podiumgate ignited.
It may be because the controversy has turned a legal corner.
Tom Mars, an Arkansas attorney, is representing a mysterious whistleblower who came forward last week with possible firsthand knowledge of public records connected to Podiumgate. The whistleblower claims documents were altered by the Sanders’ office before being released in response to Campbell's FOIA request.
Arkansas Republican State Sen. Jimmy Hickey Jr., requested an audit of the lectern purchase, too, last week.
Virginia’s Red Vest Extravaganza
As Podiumgate turns in Arkansas, the national spotlight is getting brighter for Youngkin.
In DC circles talk swirls because Youngkin may jump into the 2024 presidential race. He plans to host his second annual “Red Vest Retreat” in mid-October where he hosts billionaires at a resort near Charlottesville. (It’s called Red Vest because Youngkin wears them. A lot.)
The Washington Post reported that the event could be a chance for the billionaire guests to strongly draft Youngkin to run for president.
No doubt, Stone and Beckett are helping produce the luxurious event. Will their gal pal Sanders slip out of Arkansas on her plane and make a secret appearance at the “Red Vest Retreat”?
An even bigger question: Could 2024 see a Youngkin-Sanders ticket?
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